Constellation chart and illustration by Alexander Jamieson.

Cassiopeia and Indigenous Folklore

The constellation Cassiopeia is a circumpolar constellation that is visible year round in the northern hemisphere. The most luminous alpha star is Schedar that lies 228 light years away. M52 (NGC 581) is an open cluster which is 5000 light years away and 35 million years old. M103 star cluster (NGC 7654) open cluster in Cassiopeia. It is 10000 light years away and contains 172 stars. Cassiopeia A is a supernova remnant and is 11000 light years away from earth. The original star was about 15 to 20 times larger than our sun before it was destroyed in a supernova explosion. Cassiopeia A is now the brightest astronomical radio source in the sky.


In Cree tradition, a hunter called Ponoka known for his skill set out to find meat for his family. He hoped to find an elk. Elders had told him of a great elk who was seen running, but no one was brave or quick enough to kill this great elk. The hunter found large elk tracks and followed them to a small pool of water. The elk was drinking the water and did not see the hunter as he came closer. He threw his spear with great strength and struck the elk. The animal fell and the hunter had to drag him back to camp. He cut the hide from great elk and it was perfect. He cut the meat and shared it with everyone in his village. They were thankful. He stretched the skin to dry and drove wooden stakes through it. Everyone in the village wanted to honour this great elk. The hunter worked on the hide, striping it, softening it with care. To honour the great elk he threw the skin into the sky and where the light above shines through the stake holes. This elk skin constellation is known now as Cassiopeia.

Cassiopeia start chart.